Sunday, February 27, 2011

The necessities of kindergarten

When I was in kindergarten, back in the 1960s, we learned how to get along with others, we learned to follow the rules, we finger painted, cut and pasted we had books read to us, and we learned our  ABCs and 123s.  I remember learning to stand in line, and learning that city kids were different than country kids, that "your neighbor" didn't literally mean the person you lived next to, and that the girl with the poofy hair could be nice as long as I didn't try to talk to her first thing in the morning.  I also remember the importance of fitting in.  One of my worst childhood memories was of a picture I did on the under paper (a paper put down under drawing paper to protect the table) instead of the regular paper.  I also had the misfortune of drawing on this 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper in the portrait view instead of landscape like anyone else.  My teacher yelled at me, and on parent's night I was so ashamed of my ugly drawing!  Lesson learned.
 
When Calvin was ready for kindergarten, I dutifully took him down to the parish school for kindergarten readiness.  I figured he wasn't wearing diapers, he could put on his coat and he could get his shoes on without help, so he was ready. "Not so!" was the judgement of the teacher at the time.  Apparently they asked Calvin, "To dance you need..."   They were looking for "music" or "a radio."  Calvin said, "A girl."  Probably because we had been watching the ballroom competitions on PBS.   But it was the wrong answer.
 
He flubbed another one too.  "To take a bath you need..."  The appropriate answer being soap, water, towel.  Calvin said, "privacy." 
 
I loved Calvin's answers, and thought that as long as they could be seen as logical they should be accepted as correct.  But they weren't.  I was looking at homeschooling at that time and took this experience as my sign from God to keep heading in that direction!
 
Now days, the pressure is on for pre-schoolers and kindergartners to hit the academic track and hit it hard.  But I can't help but wonder if it makes any difference.  In my inner city neighborhood I know more than my share of dropouts or almost drop outs.  My neighbor kid who is Sam's age, fondly refers to himself as a Sophior (between sophmore but not quite a junior). I see him walking to school some days, about two hours late.  At least he's going. Head Start and kindergarten didn't seem to help him  much.  Some of the other public school kids I know tell me how much they hate school.  Some tell the kids they wish they were homeschooled. 
 
Maybe we shouldn't be so surprised.  Kindergarten has changed a lot since I was in it!


Pressure? This is kindergarten, the happy land of building blocks and singalongs. But increasingly in schools across Massachusetts and the United States, little children are being asked to perform academic tasks, including test taking, that early childhood researchers agree are developmentally inappropriate, even potentially damaging. If children don’t meet certain requirements, they are deemed “not proficient.” Frequently, children are screened for “kindergarten readiness” even before school begins, and some are labeled inadequate before they walk through the door.
Then came the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which links federal funding for schools to performance on standardized tests beginning in the third grade. Its passage “put the nail in the coffin” for the old ways, says Ed Miller, coauthor of the Alliance for Childhood study. “Faced with serious sanctions, they weren’t going to say, ‘OK, let them play and do all the things they used to do,’ ” Miller says. “Instead, we have to put them in testing boot camp well before third grade.”



As of this year I have homeschooled my 6th kindergartner.  I have gone to very rigid structure with my firstborn guinea pig kid - to very loosely with my baby. What I have learned is that it doesn't matter what curriculum I bought, how much money I spent or how much time we put in, a successful kindergarten for a homeschooled kid really only needs a few important elements.  
1.  Experiencing and living the faith of the parents and the family - seeing the adults and siblings practicing their faith.
2.  Learning the letters of the ABC.  If they can read great!  (only one of mine could and that is Miss Rosie, the kid who is getting the least structure homeschool experience!)  But it's enough that they know the letters and the sounds.  Help them draw, paint, or color them for experience.
3.  That they have an idea about numbers, counting, sorting and the calendar.
4.  That they spend time in real life situations like cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, gardening, listening to their siblings' lessons.
5.  That they are read to and hear good music.
6.  That they get to express themselves with legos, art supplies, and other supplies.
 
That's really it although I could add computer skills and t.v. if parents feel comfortable with those and want to monitor them. 
 
But the main thing is to get the child excited about learning and getting a sense of accomplishment with a dollop of discipline for good measure.  If that can be accomplished during homeschool kindergarten, that's a successful year!


 
 Rosie the kindergartner
 
 
 
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3 comments:

Janette said...

According to countless studies- the only thing that can distinguish success in regular school is the amount of vocabulary that a child leaves Kindergarten (age) with. Don't you think that is true for life as well? If you know how to express yourself you will be much more successful.
Without vocabulary- reading is useless. I keep telling my daughter- just talk and give him experiences - as you have done with yours.
Also, as you have learned, there is NO correlation between the time a child reads and IQ. It is simply a movement of learning from one area of the brain to another. As long as the base of vocabulary is there- the sight/symbol part of the brain will catch up when activated.
Another good school year.
I am glad Calvin is home for a bit. It is a different experience having them come back in as adults. It is comforting to me that both mine feel comfortable moving back when they need to (or want to).

Creating Nirvana said...

Nice post! I love your son's answers to the questions. They were very logical indeed.

schmobes said...

Great post! I agree with you on what kindergarten should be about! When I heard the story about a little girl who said "clavicle" when the tester pointed to her shoulder and was told that was wrong, all faith in kindergarten readiness screening was gone for me. The little girl was correct, just more technical! The idea that one size fits all is flawed.

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